Can a gay Republican with a jawbreaking name win the US Senate seat being vacated by Maryland’s liberal stalwart Barbara Mikulski? What were the odds, answers Chrysovalantis Kefalas, the polysyllabic candidate in question, that a doughy conservative businessman could become governor of the nation’s bluest state?
“Larry Hogan showed us the path forward,” Kefalas—who goes by Chrys—tells Washingtonian. “You need a different type of Republican to win in a blue state like Maryland.”
Kefalas, 35, is an odd fit for the GOP on many levels. Besides his sexual orientation—he’d be the first openly gay Republican to win a Senate seat—he comes from a Greek-American Baltimore family of lifelong Democrats. A graduate of private Calvert Hall high school and Loyola University Maryland, he earned his law degree at the University of Baltimore at night. After a great-aunt convinced him of the Republican view on economic and personal-liberty issues, Kefalas went to work for then congressman Robert Ehrlich. After Ehrlich became governor, Kefalas served as legal counsel on criminal-justice reform.
Kefalas is quick to say the national GOP is on the wrong side of history. In 2011, he came out publicly when he testified in favor of Maryland’s marriage-equality law. “I figured that was the end for me politically,” he says. “There’s no way I could serve at the county or state level in the Republican Party.”
His bigger problem for Maryland Republicans may be his affiliation with another politician with a funny name: For a year, he served as a speechwriter for President Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder. “I’m happy to work for any President,” Kefalas says. “I felt I was making a difference.”
But living in DC with his partner, Tommy McFly, host of the popular early-morning Tommy Show on Fresh FM 94.7 (“He’s my champion, my rock,” Kefalas says), and working for the Obama administration, he dreamed of running for office as a Republican. He was at work in February—he currently is a vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers—when news broke that Mikulski was stepping down. “No question,” McFly texted him. “Just run.”
To do so, Kefalas plans to move back to Baltimore, where his family still runs a Sparrows Point crabhouse called Costas Inn, and strike a “Lincoln Republican” stance: strong on economic opportunity and equal rights.
It’s hard to enumerate all the breaks he’d need to win: Even if Andy Harris, who represents eastern Maryland’s conservative 1st District, and Ehrlich’s former lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, don’t knock him out of the primary, in the general election Kefalas would need to match Hogan’s percentages in Baltimore, Howard, and Anne Arundel counties. “Plus,” Kefalas says, “I’d have to outperform him in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County”—the provinces of Democratic opponents Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, respectively—“and Baltimore city.”
Kefalas is nothing if not realistic: “I can’t be anyone but myself.”
That’s his best, and worst, thing going.
This article appears in our July 2015 issue of Washingtonian,